Despite entertaining trade offers and witnessing a couple of unexpected frontcourt prospects — Memphis native Arnett Moultrie and Baylor forward Perry Jones III — remain on the board, the Grizzlies chose University of Washington freshman point guard Tony Wroten Jr. with the #25 pick in Thursday night's draft, sticking with one of the most likely picks among the players the team had worked out in the pre-draft process.
While I would have been very tempted to take the extremely talented Jones — who fell due to questions about his passive make-up and red-flagged knee issues — and was on record as favoring Michigan State forward Draymond Green among the players the Grizzlies worked out, I like Wroten as a pure prospect in this draft range.
A big guard with significant defensive potential and what seems to be natural playmaking abilities, Wroten was the highest-upside player the Grizzlies worked out. I went into more detail about his game here.
I have two concerns about the pick:
1. Wroten's shooting is a problem. I think it can improve, but with a backcourt already dangerously low on reliable shooters he's not a great fit in this regard.
2. As a young, wild point guard with a shaky-at-best shot, Wroten fits the profile of someone Lionel Hollins is likely to give a short leash. If Hollins didn't have the confidence to play Greivis Vasquez (a four-year college vet) or Jeremy Pargo (a grown man after multiple years in pro ball overseas) consistently as rookies, why would we think anything will be different with Wroten? This was the main reason why I would have been reluctant to select a point guard in the draft.
Chris Wallace, in his post-draft press conference, labeling Wroten as someone who can “become a point guard” at the NBA level and then suggesting the team might pursue point-guard help, in addition to the more obvious target of outside shooting, in free agency did not give much confidence, and was a reflection that this was not at all a consensus pick.
If Wroten is an intriguing, promising, but potentially troublesome selection at #25, the Grizzlies' ultimate lack of activity in the second round was more disappointing. With several prospects the team seemed to like falling into the second round — Draymond Green, Jaw Crowder, Kim English — it would have made sense to try to buy a pick. As I explained in my preview, this is a cost-effective way to put money into your roster: You get a player you like on a cheap contract and the extra money you spend to acquire the pick does not count against the luxury tax. Apparently the Grizzlies were pursuing a second-round pick — with English as the most-likely target it seems — but, as Chris Wallace admitted in his post-draft press conference, were not willing to play cash for one. At least a couple of second-round picks were sold before English was selected at #44. The Grizzlies were presumably offering only future second-rounders or some other type of non-cash considerations, and they didn't get it done.
More to come on this draft and the way things shape up as we enter the next phase of the off-season.
Until then, you can learn more about Wroten from this lengthy profile in the Seattle Times. And you can get a better feel for his game via this scouting video from Draft Express: